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TROUBLESHOOTERS: Farmington woman says she’s being offered money to keep quiet about flooded apartment

Farmington, Ill. (HOI) – Wheelchair bound and flooded frozen, Kay Melz says she looked outside on February 8th to see her Farmington apartment surrounded by ice, with water slowly moving in.

“Well, I felt trapped,” said Melz.

But the water wasn’t from the weather.

“One of the gentlemen from Illinois American Water actually helped us get her out. I said to him, thank you so much. He said don’t thank me, this is our fault,” said Erin Lucas, Melz mother.

And for weeks, that’s the only explanation Erin Lucas got for her mother’s damaged apartment at Farmington Manor. She heard rumors of a water main break, but says that was the start of bad communication with several parties involved.

“There was no communication from WDC management who owns the apartment complex, I initially had to reach out to them but for the most part I’ve been the one reaching out to them saying where are we at, what’s happening,” said Erin.

Melz has been staying at Erin’s house in the mean time, but the house isn’t accommodating for Kay’s mobility.

A few days after the flood, Erin returned to the apartment and says the furniture was still there, but restoration company, Servpro, had started ripping up about three feet of dry wall. Three weeks later she came back again and the furniture was gone as advised, but she says no other work had been done.

“We walked in and saw nothing had happened, and at that point I was irate,” said Erin.

She says the apartment complex told them it would be only two to three weeks for restoration, it’s been five weeks now.

“They have their lives and their routine and I have have my life and my routine. I would like to just get back to it,” said Kay.

Erin then called Servpro to see what the hold up was, she says they told her they were waiting on Illinois American Water’s insurance company, Travelers Insurance. She called Travelers and talked with Account Executive Michael Hieser.

“He said well we’re waiting for Servpro to finish clean up… I said no, no you’re not. We called Servpro they’re waiting for you… so within that conversation the story changed,” said Erin.

Kay was later told the hold up was estimate approval from Travelers. Meanwhile, Erin says Travelers offered her mom money to close the situation.

“During those conversations Michael also offered my mother 36-hundred dollars to sign a form, kind of a final agreement saying we wouldn’t request any further funding or anything like that. I said that’s fine I’m happy to look over the agreement with my mom but I’m still going to talk to the news and I’m still going to move forward. His response to me was: ‘Oh, so you don’t want the agreement then’,” said Erin.

The release documents says, “”The existence and terms of this Release shall be and remain confidential between the parties”.

After that conversation, Kay says she felt like Travelers Insurance was trying to pay her to be quiet about the whole thing. She didn’t sign the papers, but the check came in the mail anyway.

“It’s not about the money she just wants to be back in her home,” said Erin.

Kay also says she couldn’t accept the money because it could impact her medicaid.

Heart of Illinois ABC reached out to Travelers Insurance to see if keeping Kay quiet was the intention behind the final release document, but they have not provided that information despite multiple phone conversations.

Owner of Farmington Manor Apartment, Kevin Wagner, responded to my request for information saying the repairs are now underway. He complimented both Illinois American Water and Travelers Insurance for their efforts,mentioning that only one family was upset about the process.

Illinois American Water says the cause of the flood was excess water from normal maintenance work on a well.

Travelers Insurance says the timeline of the restoration is now on the property manager.


Jenise Rebholz

Evening Anchor, Heart of Illinois ABC

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